The 6 a.m. alarm rang, and I moaned and turned in the bed before sitting up to stretch and groan. Weird dream I’d had in the night, but thank God, it was just a dream. At my wedding ceremony in the dreamland, another bride had come from nowhere and shoved me away from the groom. My white robe then turned into a crimson party gown, and I danced with a strange man to unknown music under red and yellow lights while Felicity Balak, my pastor’s wife, cheered.
“Whatever that means, Lord, let me not end up with what is not mine. I’m willing to wait for the right Mr. Right. Mr. Perfect Match.”
I went into the bathroom to brush my mouth. Although God wouldn’t mind mouth odor, I always wanted to talk to Him from fresh lips. That also meant my prayers would not be distracted by the unwelcome invitation from bad breath.
Faint worship music seeped in from the other apartment. Nancy. There was something strangely sweet about that new neighbor. Preoccupied with last evening’s events, I had not thought to go welcome them to the building. Yes, selfish Betty. “I’ll do that after work today.”
Back in my bedroom, I grabbed my pink leather bound Bible from the top of the bedside cupboard and climbed on the bed. The Psalms of Trust were my favorite for morning meditation. Even when I followed a devotional, I still read a psalm. They went before me like bright sunshine, piercing and clearing away the fog that could be the overwhelming bustle of Beaumont city and the inevitable emotional blows from dealing with fellow humans at the busy job site. I loved my job, but on some days, the workplace could be intoxicatingly toxic. Soaking in the presence of God early in the morning was one surefire way to keep me vaccinated against the pollution.
I read Psalm 23, read my devotional, and said my prayers. Then a quick bath and quick breakfast, and I dashed out of the house at a few minutes past 7.
“Hey, Nancy, good morning. How was your night in the new apartment? Sorry, I didn’t come to say welcome.”
The young woman swiping her phone looked up. “I’m Helga. Nancy has gone off to work.”
My jaw almost dropped. Spooky resemblance there. I waved her goodbye and hurried to the roadside to board a taxi. Without a car, I must leave early to avoid being late for work because of the huge traffic from Second Merryland to Downtown at the heart of Beaumont where I worked as an accounting clerk with Tellasborg’s Standard Bank, TSB. I lived in First Merryland because of cheaper housing. Only the big executives, politicians, and white expatriates resided in Downtown.
A few blocks to my job site, I checked my watch and dismounted the taxi. I needed to send money to my mother in Belle-Ville. My MBA was swallowing up my paycheck such that I was forced to cut down on the freewill albeit obligatory monthly allowance I sent to my parents. Yet, sooner than later, I would have to explain the reason for the reduction, or my mother might suspect I had a guy who siphoned my finances. I borrowed that allegation from the experience of female colleague.
I wrote the details of the money transfer on a piece of paper and handed it with the money to one teller who knew me since I was their regular client. Then I rushed out and trekked the rest of the way to TSB. I would call Mama later to inform her about the transfer.
When I walked through TSB’s swinging doors at a few minutes to 9, there was Bovan Gatti, one hand in trouser pocket, the other fingers tapping on the top of my desk. He looked take-away in that black suit and ox-blood shirt, but his diminutive stature reflected his low anger threshold against me. As usual.
Last Saturday, I mistook his phone charger for mine and carried it home. Yes, just a phone charger, but the innocent mistake could lead to flares, for reasons only him and I knew. Unfortunately, I forgot the charger in my haste to leave the house this morning.
I swallowed hard, waved good morning to my colleagues inside the glass booths on my left, and mouthed good morning to Bovan as I moved towards him.
“My charger,” he said calmly, but constrainedly.
“Sorry, I forgot it.”
“And your Jesus didn’t remind you when you left the house.”
“Don’t go there.” I brushed past him, stood near my table to tidy it of the several stacks of paper and dust on the brown surface.
Picking on my Christian values was Bovan’s greatest hobby. He would do it with such a stiff face you’d think he felt more pain than that which he hoped to inflict upon my heart. “I thought your Jesus knows everything and helps those who follow him.”
He sent the remaining hand into the other trouser pocket, lifting up the sides of his jacket such that his Gucci belt buckle showed. “I wouldn’t expect much from a sky father who has left you at 29 digging men’s profiles on online dating sites during work. Your shovel should be very blunt by now.” He stared at me as though expecting to see the sting wounds show up on my cheeks.
Those words, like sharp poisoned arrows, punctured the bubble of joy I had floated with to work, and I sank to my seat, gradually deflating. Anyone could insult me in any area, and I would be numb to the rudeness, but since age 27, even trivial jokes about singleness ticked off my bad emotions. As my age increased, the tolerance level decreased.
I stifled the hurt, stared back at him. I would not give a reason for his spite to feel fulfilled. My Jesus was a caring Shepherd who ensured I lacked nothing good. Some needs might not be met now, but they.would.be.met!
“My activity online is none of your business as long as it isn’t work related. I only surf during break time.”
“It wouldn’t have been my business if you didn’t use work computers and Wi-Fi for such activity.”
“It’s still none of your business. You don’t own TSB.”
I booted my computer, hoping he would leave. When he stood still, I corrected his mistake. “Point of correction, I’m not yet 29.”
He laughed, really hard, thumping his right fist on my desk. Dissatisfied expectation fed his bitterness. What had begun as normal resentment from disappointment had ballooned into full blown hatred. Three years ago when I arrived in TSB, Beaumont branch, I was what my colleagues called a Jane-just-come, owing to my new employment and lack of work experience. After school, I’d mostly landed casual jobs, and TSB was my breakthrough. Longer-serving male colleagues like Bovan thought I was an easy-to-date or flirt with specie.
After two dates, I had decided he wasn’t what I wanted. And because I was a Christian, dating with the goal of marriage, I told him outright that we didn’t suit each other. I never wanted to waste his time or mine.
The boldness of the Jane-just-come had hurt Bovan’s ego and turned the once sweet colleague into a stalking enemy who would spare no opportunity to fry my religious viewpoints that barred him from getting me.
“Keep dreaming, Bethany. Before you know it, you are forty, single, old, ugly, and lonely.” He walked away, the studs of his shiny black shoes clicking against the floor.
I watched until he disappeared through the staff-only security door. My body weakened as though I was catching an illness. WithIthiel now married, I feared that Bovan’s prophecy might come true.
Before 10 a.m., my phone rang. Maybe Mama had seen the money, but why call with an unknown number. Or this was my junior brother Ben Ful, calling to beg for money.
An unfamiliar male voice spoke. “This is Alan Benedict. Am I talking to Bethany Golden?”
I squeezed my brow, head flinched back, eyes gazing into the screen “Yes. How may I help you, sir?”
“I am the CEO of Brightstone Music. Biy assured me you’re a talented singer. Can you come over to the studio for a test recording? We’re located at Sibelsa, just behind the Cadex supermarket.”
Brightstone? Oh my God! “Well, um… Mr. Benedict, I’m at work. Can I call you back in the evening?”
“Sure. Will be expecting you. Have a nice day, Miss Golden.”
I gazed at the phone until the call dropped. I almost shouted but for the sight of my colleagues that reminded me I was at work. My heart overflowed with a bout of mixed emotions—joy in surrealism. No average aspiring artist in Tellasborg gets the attention of a reputable record house like Brightstone that launched the flourishing music ministry of my role model, Charlette. Except God had a different plan, there was nothing stopping me from seizing this offer.
I picked up the phone and looked at the number again, careful not to awaken from this ideal world of my music dreams gradually coming true. Oh, how my body climbed out of the cesspool of hopelessness into which Bovan had flung it.
I thought to call Biy. No, no time to waste. I was at work and must justify the comfortable paycheck by using each tick of the clock to serve my employer. In a country with high unemployment levels that forced many to gnash their teeth at jobs they hated but couldn’t do without, I counted myself super blessed to work a good-paying job I enjoyed. It was my childhood dream job.
A few minutes later, my phone rang again. I picked the call, no greetings. “Biy, why did you have to do that?”
“Cos I knew it’s the right thing to do, sweetie. For how long are you going to keep hiding that beautiful voice?”
“I’m not hiding the voice.”
I lowered my voice when my colleagues in the glass booths opposite my desk stretched their heads, eager to overhear. “It’s about being led by the Holy Spirit. I haven’t heard Him prompt me in any special way, although I’ve been praying. Brightstone is a huge temptation if this is not God.”
“Make sure you go see Alan.” Biy dropped the call.
A fleeting thought flew across my mind. I seized it and gave it a seat as I logged into Facebook to study Alan’s profile. Dark, stocky young man probably in his thirties. And very single—if the profile didn’t lie like others did. A man in the industry, either as a co-talent or producer, was my ideal Mr. Perfect Match.
I made my fingers glide over my computer keyboard. Yes, it was just a thought, but I could count more than one occasion where a mere thought had metamorphosed into something… immortal.